"May I know your good name” is a typically Indian way of honouring another person by asking their name using an adjective like sweet, good, beautiful, et cetera. Of course there won’t ever be any bad or sour name (unless we feel it such) when asking.

If this manner of asking someone’s name is incorrect or inappropriate, then how could I make it sound more polite and amicable without negotiating the basic principles of English?

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    Sounds rather Dickensian, perhaps even something out of Dumas. “Pray good sir, might you do me the honour of bringing me to know your good name, that I might better remember the pleasure of your fine company when we have parted?”
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 16:09
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    Or you might say, "Who's speaking, please?" when on the phone. Each situation has its own convention.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 16:30
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    There are contexts where you can say "Might I ask your name, Sir/Madame?" without it being perceived as "strange", but I don't think you can fit anything like "good" in there without sounding tiresomely obsequious and/or like a foreigner trying to replicate their own native forms in a culture where they don't really fit. The best I can think of is "Would you be good enough to tell me your name?" Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 17:47
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    Or seal the request with the "magic" word, please, as in "What is your name, please?" Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 18:07
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    The other approach is to say, "I'm Vibhas Kulkarni." and hold out your hand (in preparation to shake) and wait. If he wants to tell you his name that's his opportunity to do so.
    – Jim
    Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 18:36

4 Answers 4


As @tchrist noted in a comment, may I know your good name? sounds overly old fashioned to a native English speaker.

When you're encountering a stranger, a common way to get someone's name is to provide yours first, especially after conversation has already been initiated. This conversation usually goes something like:

Aaron: I don't think I know your name. Mine is Aaron.

John: [My name is] John. It's nice to meet you.

Aaron: Nice to meet you, too.

And then two would shake hands. Generally speaking, it would be rude for John (in this example) to not respond by providing his name.


I often use "I'm sorry, I didn't catch [or get] your name," even when I know it hasn't been offered yet. I preface that with repeating my own name, if it isn't obvious in context.


Ask for it cheerfully and congenially (basically means relaxed and friendly). I really can't think of anything past that. A friendly face goes a long way in English. It transmits the same idea, and if the other person doesn't trust your face, he probably isn't going to trust the adjective good, either.

Also, if he doesn't know your name, saying "My name is..." and then asking will help as well.

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    I should imagine a friendly face goes a long way not just in English but in any language, or even none at all.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 19:29
  • Yeah, definitely :) Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 19:35

Asking for a name is not a traditional form of greeting in English. As far as I understand your question you are asking what conventional English way of greeting might be equivalent to the Indian may I know your good name.

In English when the person is unknown to you would be –

How do you do.

From OED –

how-do-you-do | how-d'ye-do, phr. and n

n. Used as a name for the inquiry (which is often used as a mere greeting or salutation)

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